Pantanal Wetlands Fires Surge Nearly Tenfold in 2024, Raising Alarm for Wildlife and Ecosystem

Pantanal Wetlands Fires Surge Nearly Tenfold in 2024, Raising Alarm for Wildlife and Ecosystem

Fires in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands have surged nearly tenfold in 2024, reaching the highest levels since 2020. Weak rains and delayed seasons have left the region vulnerable, prompting urgent government action as the peak wildfire season approaches.

Brasilia, (Bollywood Fever): Fires in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands have surged almost tenfold this year, reaching their highest levels since 2020, when the biome experienced its worst blazes on record. Satellite data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) indicated a staggering 980% increase in fires in the Pantanal through June 5, compared to the same period last year. These alarming figures come as the region approaches the peak wildfire season, typically starting in July and intensifying in August and September.

“It’s one of the worst starts of year in terms of hot spots since the beginning of the historical series in 1998,” said Vinicius Silgueiro, territorial intelligence coordinator at the local NGO Instituto Centro de Vida.

The Pantanal wetlands, which are about ten times the size of Florida’s Everglades, are home to diverse wildlife, including jaguars, tapirs, caimans, anacondas, and giant anteaters. Unusually weak rains since late last year have disrupted the typical seasonal flooding, making more of the region susceptible to fires.

“What’s most worrying is that even in the rainy season we had this increase in fires,” Silgueiro added. He also cautioned that the Pantanal is likely to face another severe drought this year, following a wet season with rainfall 60% below the average, according to Brazil’s National Institute of Meteorology (INMET).

The recent surge in fires follows unusual blazes at the end of 2023, when the El Niño climate phenomenon delayed the rainy season, resulting in 4,134 fires registered in November, compared to a historical average of 584 for that month.

In response, Brazil’s government signed a pact on Wednesday with state governors from the Pantanal and Amazon regions to combat wildfires. Mato Grosso do Sul, the state housing most of the country’s Pantanal, has already declared an environmental emergency.

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